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Shaun Deeb Chases "Unprofitable" World Series of Poker Player of the Year Award

Deeb Heads to the Czech Republic For This Month's WSOP Europe After Monster Summer


This week, the World Series of Poker Europe kicks off at the Kings Casino Rozvadov in the Czech Republic. The 10-event series will award the usual gold bracelets, at least €13 million in guaranteed payouts, and it will wrap up the WSOP Player of the Year race.

Leading the way for 2018 POY honors is long-time poker pro Shaun Deeb. The 32-year-old put together an incredible summer at the WSOP, winning his fourth bracelet and a combined $2.4 million on 15 cashes.

The New York-based pro started off his run at the POY with a third-place showing in the $1,500 2-7 lowball event, earning a $36,330 payday. He then finished in the money in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, narrowly missing out on the final table.

Just days later, he won his third career bracelet, pocketing $1,402,683 in the prestigious $25,000 pot-limit Omaha championship event, topping a stacked final table that included the likes of Scotty Nguyen, defending champion James Calderaro, and the red-hot Jason Koon and Ben Yu.

After a deep run in the $10,000 WSOP main event, banking $57,010 for finishing in 105th place, Deeb closed out his summer with bracelet no. 4 in the $10,000 six-max no-limit hold’em event with big blind antes. The win was worth $814,179 and the lead in the POY race over Joe Cada, John Hennigan, Scott Bohlman and the aforementioned Yu. (For good measure, Deeb also took second in a $25k event in South Florida this August for another $534,989.)

Now, 14 years since turning pro, Deeb has put together a live tournament resume that adds up to more than $7 million in earnings. That’s in addition to nearly $6.8 million won online by the former no. 1 ranked player in the world.

Card Player caught up with Deeb just before he set out to Rozvadov, hoping to secure the POY award.

Julio Rodriguez: The WSOP Europe series is nearly here. Are you looking forward to going?

Shaun Deeb: To be honest, it’s probably unprofitable for me to go there, when you consider the buy-ins and the travel expenses. If it was strictly about money, I would never bother going there, but I really want to win POY, and this is the best shot I’ve had at doing it.

Shaun Deeb at the 2018 WSOPJR: So, knowing it might cost you money, you are still going?

SD: I’ve always cared about leaderboards, from day one in poker. The PokerStars TLB (tournament leaderboard) was my main motivation for grinding and putting in the effort back in the day. I’ve won a lot of leaderboards throughout my career, and the WSOP is kind of the most important one. There isn’t a monetary prize with it, but I still want it.

JR: You want POY so bad, that at one point this summer, you were playing in multiple events at the same time. In fact, you even managed to make it to day 3 of two $1,500 events simultaneously, finishing third, and 16th.

SD: The multi-tabling was definitely a minus EV (negative expected value) move, but somehow I actually made money while I did it. I had a lot of fun doing it, and it made for a cool story. To me, making those two day 3s simultaneously was the most impressive thing I did this summer, not winning two bracelets. I had to accumulate so many chips in both events just to avoid blinding out, running back and forth. Obviously winning a couple million dollars is sweet, but that was my favorite moment, playing both those events at the same time. If someone were to win two bracelets on the same day, that would be one of the most incredible accomplishments in poker. Most people don’t even attempt it, so to get that close was special.

JR: Speaking of bracelets, you now have four. What do you think of your growing collection, and where do you keep them?

SD: I think their cool, I like them. I give them as gifts. My third bracelet went to my wife because she didn’t have one yet. My fourth bracelet went to one of my uncles that I’m very close with. They are the best gifts to give. Winning them at least gets me out of giving a Christmas or birthday gift to someone. (laughs)

JR: You cashed an astounding 15 times this summer, for nearly $2.5 million. The year before, it was a summer full of close calls and near misses. Was there anything you did differently this year that helped you close out the events?

SD: My game is my game. I just got lucky to avoid coolers, not get sucked out on. There’s so little difference between an okay summer and a great summer. I can look back at my deep runs and see many hands that could have taken me out earlier. Some summers, you just can’t avoid them and you end up busting in ninth, or 12th, or not even making the money. For whatever reason, this summer it all went my way. I can’t say I’m the best, or even that I outplayed anybody. I’m just happy that the events I won were two high buy-ins.

JR: It sounds like you believe you were just on the right side of variance.

Deeb in 2015SD: I know what my theoretical ROI (return on investment) is. Obviously, this was an extreme outlier year. I won two events that I’m not that good at, you know. PLO, and I’m just not that good at no-limit hold’em anymore. I know I’m decent at tournaments, but there were times when I was far and away the worst player at the table, and I think everyone at the table would agree. I know some of these kids are better than me, but I had some tricks, applied pressure when I could, and ran good when it mattered. Most importantly, I was able to increase the variance. That was my goal. When I recognize that I’m a dog, I’ll try to reduce their edge by increasing the variance, playing bigger pots, trying to get it in first.

JR: You’re talking about the players who have adopted a GTO-approach to the game. You told PokerStars that you consider yourself to be an old-school player now, because not only do you not use solvers, you still don’t even use a HUD (heads up display).

SD: Some people are saying that the solvers are ruining the game. I think for no-limit hold’em, solvers have definitely made the game less profitable and tougher to beat. Everyone is just trained to play tight now, so it’s a lot harder to win. The games are changing. It’s less about leveling and psychology now, with everyone trying to play GTO (game theory optimal) poker.

With a wife and kids at home, I just don’t have the time and energy to learn that style of play, to get to know the programs and how to use them. So I know that I’m definitely taking the worst of it. But the hours I would have to put in to increase my edge, or decrease their edge, I should say, just isn’t worth it. I don’t play a lot of the high rollers, and I usually just play the mixed events, or the no-limit tournaments with big fields.

JR: Having the responsibility of a family certainly cuts into your poker schedule, but you still found time to play in the WCOOP (PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker) recently, winning two more titles.

SD: (laughs) Yeah, I won two WCOOPs and still found a way to lose money. That’s just how the series went. I played every WCOOP event, and a good chunk of other events, so I probably spent $400,000 or so in buy-ins. I had multiple days with $40,000 plus in buy-ins. It’s really crazy how online poker has gotten. They pretty much bust somebody every week.

I normally just go nearby to Montreal, but my usual place wasn’t available. So I ended up going to Edinburgh, Scotland. I was going to be ‘in town’ for EPT Barcelona, and basically just grinded online poker for two weeks like the good old days.

Deeb In 2011JR: For some reason, you seem to find yourself involved in more than your fair share of drama off the tables. Although you often speak out as a warning to others in the poker community about shady individuals, you still remain polarizing to a lot of your peers. Why isn’t everyone behind Shaun Deeb?

SD: I understand it. I’m in your face. I’ve slow rolled people. I call people out. I do a lot of things, that… go against the grain. So I understand why people don’t like me, but it doesn’t bother me because I’m the kind of guy who is going to voice his opinion no matter what. Now, I’ve been wrong, said things that were inappropriate, things I regret, and crossed some lines, but I’m not going to stop. The poker world would be better off if everyone outed the scammers and scumbags, but that doesn’t happen because everyone is so self-serving. I’m not going to become quiet, or shy, or be soft spoken. I do and say what I think is best for the industry, and for myself as well.